The Tennessee Titans added the big back complement to Chris Johnson that they had been seeking, selecting Jamie Harper of Clemson with their fourth-round compensatory pick, the 130th overall.
The Titans not only needed a big running back to contrast Johnson and Javon Ringer, but might also wind up needing a fullback on the roster, depending upon what happens with the labor situation. There is a scenario where current fullback Ahmard Hall could be an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
New running backs coach Jim Skipper, who coached DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart with the Carolina Panthers, envisions Harper perhaps vying for some carries in Tennessee, even operating in the shadow of Johnson.
“I think you've got to have a one-two punch in there, because physically the position is so demanding on a guy. You want to keep people fresh so that every time you look up, you're putting pressure on the defense,” Skipper said. “It's kind of like a race car driver, when they come in for the pit stop and get brand new tires on. A fresh guy in (can) keep it going.”
Besides, the Titans have been searching for a bigger back to add to their backfield since they made a major mistake by dropping LeGarrette Blount on waivers to create a roster spot for special teamers, only to lose him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Blount wound up surpassing 1,000 yards rushing as a rookie.
“Coming in, I think he's going to be more like Blount, but I think he has the potential to develop into that lead block type,” Titans scout Cole Proctor said.
Harper (5-11, 235) rushed for 760 yards for the Tigers in his final season at Clemson, scoring seven rushing touchdowns. He also made an impact as a receiver, catching 35 passes for 328 yards.
“He's a big back, an inside runner. He has good hands. He has power and can get yards after contact, and he's just going to be a good solid player for us. He brings more size and inside running ability for our team,” Proctor said.
Harper is excited about the chance to be paired with Johnson.
“It's an honor to be selected by these guys and to play with a running back as great as Chris Johnson,” Harper said. “I'm going to try to make the best out of the situation.”